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Welcome to the first week of Chef's Course. Over four weeks, an expert chef will give you exclusive tips and tricks on how to use a specific kitchen tool, including a recipe developed just for us. First up is two-time Chopped Champion Tatiana Rosa. 
CHIMICHURRI IN A HURRY 

I love my mortar and pestle, a simple yet powerful kitchen tool. Would my pestos, spice blends, and sauces still turn out OK if I used a food processor instead? Sure. But they’ll taste even better if I use a mortar and pestle—there’s a reason this thing has been a key kitchen tool for centuries.

A mortar and pestle crushes and grinds nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs into bright and flavorful pastes. Food processors accomplish this task similarly, but the difference is in the pungency of a freshly ground sauce vs. a relatively muted and muddy processed mixture. Consider the mortar and pestle an investment in perfecting your favorite recipes and going the extra mile to not only respect ingredients, but to extract the most amount of flavor from them as possible.

The creamiest pestos and most fragrant spice blends come from using a mortar and pestle as it releases the ingredients’ natural oils without losing any of the brightness or freshness in the process. My favorite thing to make in mine is chimichurri. Grinding down garlic into a gorgeous paste before adding the herbs, the sound of the pestle hitting the mortar while the fragrance is extracted—it’s downright therapeutic.

Taking it a step further and using shiso in place of traditional chimichurri herbs elevates this condiment to the next level and makes the most out of the equipment.


— Tatiana Rosana

Tatiana Rosana is a chef, mother, and two-time Chopped Champion whose Cuban-American heritage influences the dishes she creates as head of Boston’s Outlook Kitchen, Lookout Rooftop and Bar, and The Envoy Hotel.
SHISO CHIMICHURRI


This bright and unique chimichurri begs to be spooned over the crispy skin of a whole roasted branzino. It also pairs perfectly with the smoked char of grilled flank steak and can be used as a dipping sauce for shrimp kebabs.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT MATERIAL

Mortar and pestle shopping can be overwhelming, as there are countless varieties available, from tiny ceramic vessels to hefty marble models. But once you settle on a material, size, and general purpose (will this be for spices primarily? Or perhaps family-sized servings of fresh guacamole?), it becomes a lot less difficult. My general rule, however, is to look for a mortar and pestle with a decently wide bowl and with an abrasive interior that comes with a similarly abrasive pestle. This will make grinding and crushing easier and help you achieve consistent results. In terms of material, ceramic bowls might be much lighter and often less expensive, but I find that granite or marble stone mortars are much sturdier and can take on harder ingredients without chipping or cracking.

FUNCTION AND FASHION

Find a mortar and pestle that’s as beautiful as it is practical. Your sauces and pastes can go from kitchen to table in a ruggedly handsome vessel that serves as a showpiece for your dinner party.

HOW TO PREP YOUR MORTAR AND PESTLE

Once you find the perfect mortar and pestle for you, make sure to wash it with warm water and soap and let it air dry before using to remove any impurities. I also like to grind a handful of raw white rice in the bowl, then discard and wash one more time to get rid of any loose stone that might have accumulated in the grooves of the bowl. Once it’s washed and ready to go, the possibilities are endless.

WHAT YOU NEED
INGREDIENTS:
2 cloves garlic
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less according to taste)
1 cup shiso leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup parsley leaves
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
TOOLS:
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HOW TO MAKE SHISO CHIMICHURRI
STEP 1:  GRIND UP ALLIUMS
Using a mortar and pestle, grind garlic, shallot, and salt together until a paste begins to form.
STEP 2:  ADD YOUR HERBS
Add crushed red pepper, shiso leaves, and parsley and grind until leaves start to break down and combine with the garlic and shallots.
STEP 3:  ADD WET INGREDIENTS
Stir in vinegar and olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
STEP 4:  STORE IT
Refrigerate until ready to use. You can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks, and this sauce is one that just gets better with age.
STEP 5:  SERVE
This bright and unique chimichurri begs to be spooned over the crispy skin of a whole roasted branzino. It also pairs perfectly with the smoked char of grilled flank steak, or can be used as a dipping sauce for shrimp kebabs.
FOR THE PERFECT BRANZINO, preheat your oven to 450°F. Cut three to four ½-inch deep slits, diagonally, across both sides of the fish, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the inside with lemon slices and whole sprigs of parsley before roasting on a rack for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. For extra crispy skin, finish by broiling for 1 to 2 minutes then slather on a liberal amount of your shiso chimichurri.  
 
Recipe and photos by Tatiana Rosana / Illustrations by Tara Jacoby
Thanks for grinding with us! Look out for next week's installment, in which Tatiana will "cast" a spellbinding new recipe for a kitchen workhorse.
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